Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

Title:Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions
灰と幻想のグリムガル (Japanese)
Keywords: , , , , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - A1 Pictures
HOSOYA Yoshimasa
When Haruhito awakens, he's in the dark. He doesn't know where he is, why is he here, and where he came from. Around him there are several men and women who have the same circumstances. Haruhito and his companions find themselves in a "game-like world" called Grimgar and must form a party, cooperate, and learn new skills to survive the harsh environment together.
(Synopsis courtesy of ANN)

12 episodes
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent 6 6 7 7 7 7 Ggultra2764 [series:3144#1552]
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is another "trapped in a fantasy world" style adventure series focused on a group of teens forced to survive together in a party against enemy monsters using weapons or magic. The series plays up many of the typical tropes of this type of storytelling that have been milked in recent years, though this one does stick out for focusing on the party dynamics of our main group of characters as they cooperate together and have their successes and hardships they face battling against enemy threats and learn to cooperate together despite their varying personalities and beliefs with approaching the fighting they take part in. There is a unique and shocking twist to this series that develops in the middle of the show which allows it to create something unique to develop for the "trapped in a fantasy world" series. The series does end inconclusively as the circumstances leading our group to be transported into the fantasy world have yet to be revealed and the visuals are rather lackluster with the washed-out backgrounds, plain character designs, and instances of animation shortcuts being milked. Still, this is otherwise a decent entry in the "trapped in a fantasy world" style adventure genre for its focus on group dynamics and the surprising plot twist it offers up in the middle of its run.

Last updated Tuesday, September 20 2016. Created Tuesday, September 20 2016.
Buy Stretch [series:3144#628]
(Buy or Rent+)

(All episodes watched--twice):

This show was a pleasant surprise. Going in, I was expecting a generic sword & sorcery show, and wasn't eager. But instead Grimgar turned out to be a 'video game users trapped in virtual reality' show, like Sword Art Online or Log Horizon. That in itself isn't a guarantee that the show will be much good, but there's something novel here: somehow the kids can't remember how they got where they are, or where they were before. They do have some very vague memories; the word 'game', for instance, is a word that they know they've heard before, but they can't place it. They are convinced that getting killed is just that, and had better be avoided at all costs. You get the impression that all the really tough, cool people formed one group to go adventuring, and all the rejects formed this one. Life for them is hard and realistic, not exciting and thrilling as video games tend to be. They need food, shelter and clothing, and nobody is giving those things away for free. The dialogue between the characters is interesting and fleshes them out. The episode ends with a routine event rather than a cliffhanger. It doesn't need one; with likeable characters and a basic mystery regarding how they wound up where and how they are, I was intrigued and eager for more of this show. The basic unanswered question for me is, will this show be about how to get good at playing the game, or about figuring out WTF has happened to them? I pray it will be the latter.

Actually, Grimgar was about neither. The cast does little thinking about how they wound up where they are, since they are now living dangerous, exhausting lives. And, to my surprise, the main focus of the show is on the development of comraderie and friendship among the cast as they struggle to survive. This is clearly a well thought out, intellectual show, not one about little more than how to play video games. The scene where the team finally manages to kill a Goblin was striking; the thought that crossed my mind was 'are humans really any better than Goblins?'. It's as if whoever wrote this show objected to video games which included routine violence without the players having to think about the consequences, and is pointing out that even in fights-of-the-week, people die. Video games are supposed to be all about being able to kill and risk your life without there being any real-world consequences; but here you might say we are being reminded of what an unrealistic view that is. This anime isn't lecturing us in a haughty manner, no, it is pointing out what would be liable to happen if players really did have to take responsibility for their actions.

I would say that this is the most serious, thought-provoking, teens-trapped-in-virtual-reality series yet, better even than SAO. Ultimately that one was just about hacking and slashing your way to victory, while in this one fighting takes up relatively little time yet carries much greater significance. It seems unlikely that anyone in this second-class adventuring team will ever be good enough to 'win' his/her way out of the game. And, of course, they don't even know that this is a game (it is, right? Even we can't be completely certain; could this be the way video games are supposed to operate in the future--so realistic that they temporarily blank your memory?). As a result the mystery and suspense is intriguing and engaging. There's an unlimited supply of potential drama within video MMORPGs, and I get the feeling that until Grimgar other anime had barely scratched the surface. The critical question is whether getting killed here in Grimgar really means you die in the real world; and again, even we viewers don't know the answer.

In episode four something happens which makes the question of what getting killed in Grimgar really means all the more important. What we know and what we don't know is handled in such a manner that we are left intrigued and even fascinated. A new member joins the team and we get to know her. The team is gaining confidence and seems likely to take on something bigger than a goblin soon. Episode eight, in which the team risks an ambitious operation rather than just picking off two or three Goblins at a time, almost (but not quite) had a feel like the climax of the classic Western 'The Magnificent Seven'. With the way it ended, it also almost seemed like the final episode of the series as a whole. A major corner has been turned and clearly an arc has ended; where would the show go from here? I prayed (unsuccessfully) that it would be a 24 rather than a 12 episode anime. One sign of how much I liked this show was that I made a habit of watching each episode twice. That doesn't happen often. Most shows barely have enough entertainment to them for me to watch them even once, but Grimgar is engaging enough that I want to pay close attention to the story and not miss anything. Some shows expect the viewer to be religiously engaged and not miss any detail, even though they aren't all that great and as a result the viewer isn't willing to invest all that much time and effort. Grimgar definitely does not have this problem.

When I'm really enjoying a show, as was the case with Grimgar, I sometimes respond to the final episode in a counterintuitive manner in the sense that sometimes I'd rather not watch it. I don't want such a cool series to ever end, and I like having what I am confident will be a truly awesome episode in my pocket to watch at any time in the future. That was partly why I didn't watch the final episode of Grimgar until late June 2016, nearly three months after it had originally aired. The episode wasn't jaw-droppingly brilliant, but it wrapped things up in a manner which made complete sense and provided complete closure, and therefore was completely satisfactory. The protagonist passes a very big test and learns an important lesson about leadership, loyalty and friendship. At this point we have virtually forgotten that this is presumably all happening within a video game (or at least a video-game like world), because it has been so realistic and engaging. It's an ending which would work equally well for a series as a whole or for just one season of an ongoing anime. I had hoped for a notice of a second season being in the works, but none was forthcoming. Thus ends what was my favorite anime of the Winter 2016 season. I will undoubtably be re-watching it at some point.

Fairly credible websites suggest that a second season may well be in the works for Grimgar, though it probably won't be ready until the Fall of 2019. That's excellent news for me, as I rewatch season one.

Last updated Wednesday, June 27 2018. Created Wednesday, January 13 2016.

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